The Institute's essay program aligns perfectly with our mission:

"To provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense."

The subjects examined by the vast Naval community of those who think deeply and consider the successes, failures and future of maritime and national security policy cover a broad range of fascinating, critical topics, some of which are listed below. Individual essay contests are generally made possible with support from commercial defense contractors, whose interest in encouraging new ideas surrounding specific topics lines up with the Institute's mission to host such discussions. The centerpiece of the Institute's essay program is the General Prize.

The General Prize Essay contest is perhaps the oldest continuously conducted writing contest in the entire United States. The Institute began work on the Contest in 1878 under the leadership of the most recognized and celebrated Naval Strategist in United States history, Alfred Thayer Mahan, then the Chairman of the Naval Institute.

Lieutenant Commander Allan D. Brown first proposed the idea for an essay contest sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute for "a paper which shall be deemed the best" on 9 May 1878 at the organization's meeting in Annapolis. The first contest was in 1879. The name of the contest was changed in 1985 to the Arleigh Burke Essay Contest in honor of the World War II hero, former Chief of Naval Operations, and President of the Naval Institute. The name reverted to the General Prize in 2008. Today, the prizes honor the first, second, and third best articles published in Proceedings over the previous year, from October through September of the succeeding year.

Essay Contest may be found here.

Watch the pages of Proceedings and the home page for announcements concerning upcoming essay contests.

2015 General Prize Essay Contest

Enter the Naval Institute’s General Prize Essay Contest

The Challenge: The U.S. Naval Institute’s mission is to provide “…an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense.” The General Prize Essay Contest is an enduring endorsement of that principle and invites your participation in this open annual essay contest to discuss the most compelling and forward-thinking ideas. There is no restriction on theme. All essays are judged in the blind by the Naval Institute’s Editorial Board composed of serving Sea Service Professionals.

Past Winners: Since 1879, the Naval Institute’s flagship essay contest has been the General Prize. Past winners include: CDR Alfred Thayer Mahan (1879); ENS W.I. Chambers (1884); LT E. L. Beach (1903); RADM Stephen B. Luce (1905); LT Ernest J. King (1909); LCDR J. K. Taussig (1916); LTJG Ernest Eller (1930); LCDR (later Senator) Sam Stratton (1952/1954); CAPT Wayne Hughes (1981); LCDR James Stavridis (1984); CAPT Linton Brooks (1987); Ron O’Rourke (1988); LT Niel Golightly (1990); LT Christopher Abel, USCG; Capt Jon Hoffman, USMC (1991); CDR James Winnefeld Jr. (1994); LT David Adams (1997); LT Thomas R. Williams (2000).

2014 Winners: LCDR Wolf Melbourne, USN; LT Ryan P. Hilger, USN; LT Roger L. Misso, USN. All were published in the April 2015 issue of Proceedings.


First Prize $6,000
Second Prize $3,000
Third Prize $2,000

Note: All prizes include one-year membership in the U.S. Naval Institute

Deadline: 31 December 2015

Word Length: 3,500 words maximum

Note: Word count does not include footnotes/endnotes/sources.

Eligibility: The contest is open to all persons eligible for membership (including those already members) in the Institute.

Prior Publication: We will assume that your essay has not been previously published (online or in print) or being considered for publication elsewhere, unless otherwise notified by you.  All previously published essays are ineligible.

Submission Guidelines:

Selection Process: The Proceedings staff members will evaluate every essay and screen the top essays to the Editorial Board for judging.  All essays will be judged in the blind -- i.e., the Proceedings staff members and judges will not know the authors of the essays.

Announcement of the Winners: The winning essays will be announced and published in the April 2016 issue of Proceedings.

Award Ceremony: Prize winners are honored as part of a recognition ceremony during the Naval Institute's Annual Meeting, or at some other event to be determined by the Institute.

About Naval Institute Essay Contests

Essay contests have been central to the work of the Naval Institute for well over one hundred years. They directly fulfill the Institute’s educational mission by encouraging writing on issues of concern to the Sea Services. They provide thought-provoking articles that spur ongoing discussion of these same issues, not only in Naval Institute media, print and digital, but also in other leading defense and national security forums. 


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